Eliminating Response Bias In Business Surveys


The success of your business depends on customer satisfaction and loyalty. The happier your customers are the more likely they are to keep doing business with you and recommending your products or services to friends and family.

One of the ways you can learn what your customers think about you is by using surveys to find out their opinions and use this information to measure their satisfaction with your business. The data you compile can help you evaluate your success, set new goals, and come up with new ideas to improve the customer experience. 

The problem with surveys is that they can be biased, causing question results to be skewed and often unusable. But don’t let this stop you from using business surveys. Here’s what you need to know about bias response in survey questions and how to avoid this bias when creating your own surveys.


Identifying Response Bias

Even when you think you’ve come up with the best questions for your business survey, bias can affect the end results and data. While survey questions can effectively characterize your customers, if not written to avoid response bias, you’ll end up with inaccurate information.

Although you may not be able to completely eliminate response bias in your survey questions, being aware of these biases can help you write questions that are reliable and produce more valid results.

Here’s a list of the most common types of bias in customer surveys:


The leading question

Leading questions are one of the top reasons survey questions become biased. A leading question pushes participants to respond to a question in a certain manner, usually as a way to confirm information rather than to get an honest and unbiased answer. Leading questions in your survey can negate the results as they adversely affect your data analysis and research.


Social conformity

The desire to conform socially and morally can motivate your customers to answer questions so they appear favorable and others will like and accept them. Participants often respond in a way that reinforces those positive behaviors and characteristics that they know are socially desirable. 


Neutral responses

A biased neutral response happens when participants respond to each question in the survey with a negative answer. This often occurs when people aren’t interested in the survey and want to skim through to finish as fast as possible. 


Order bias

The order in which you ask survey questions can affect the results. Participants may react differently to the context of questions that are placed at the beginning of the survey than they do to questions near the end. Participant answers can also be affected by order bias within each question itself, with the tendency to pick the first answer in the list simply because it’s the first one they read and agree with.


Demand bias

Demand bias happens because your customers are influenced just by being part of the survey and they attempt to understand the purpose and goals of the questions. Once they know the purpose, they’ll often answer questions based on wanting to support the survey rather than giving accurate responses.


Relying on volunteer participants

People who volunteer to participate in your survey can often skew the data. The results often over-represent participants who have strong feelings and opinions and limit an accurate overview of your target customers. 


How To Write Non-Biased Survey Questions

Even a small amount of bias in your survey can make the data ineffective to use in any business analysis. Use these 6 tips to write questions that avoid response bias.

1. Use language your customers can understand

The language you use to write your survey questions should be direct, simple, and easy for your target audience to comprehend. Each question should be uncomplicated and written in language that every participant will be able to understand so they can provide the same type of accurate response. You can accomplish this by avoiding complex terms, jargon, and abbreviations and acronyms that respondents aren’t familiar with.

2. Avoid the leading question

Avoid writing questions that will influence the respondent to choose one particular response over another. The purpose of customer surveys is to gather unprejudiced feedback from your customers – you can accomplish this by writing questions that allow people to give honest and accurate answers without prompting them with loaded questions. 

3. Provide participants with context

Questions that are vague and lack context can be difficult for your customers to answer. Ask yourself what information you’re trying to get from participants. Then focus on writing questions that give enough background so that people can fully interpret what you’re asking them. You’ll also want to make sure that all the questions in your survey stick to the topic and are relevant to your goals. 

4. Focus on your prime customer targets

Before creating a survey make sure you understand your prime customer audience. If your survey is applicable and customized, your target audience will be more likely to participate and provide you with accurate answers. You may want to write more than one survey based on the different demographics of your customers. This way you can use language that each group uses and understands. 

5. Give respondents an “out”

Even when you provide options to questions that cover all possible answers, some participants may feel that none of the answers apply. To avoid them choosing any answer just to complete the question you need to give them an “out.” To keep your data accurate and honest, give your customers the option to answer with “N/A” or “Don’t Know.”

6. Hide the purpose of your survey

Write questions that hide the true purpose of your business survey and the information you’re trying to collect. When your customers are aware of the purpose of your survey, they may respond so that their answers correspond with how they think they’re expected to behave. Also known as “demand characteristics,” being aware of the purpose behind the questions can be detrimental to your own goals, providing you with inaccurate results about what your customers are thinking and feeling. 



Using a business survey to collect customer feedback is a smart way to learn more about your customers and how they feel about doing business with you. This information can impact the success of your business, giving you the opportunity to make positive changes so you can improve your customer service and gain more loyalty and trust.

Although you can’t expect your customers to respond to each question without 100% bias, you can avoid and minimize bias by using the guidelines outlined here.   

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